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Monitoring rail safety

Our commitment to safety on rail networks includes tracking licensees' performance in meeting their legal, safety and operational obligations. The main way we do this is through conducting annual safety assessments, which check the compliance of licence holders with their safety cases. We also monitor and respond to accident and incident notifications that licence holders must report to us following the processes we have agreed with them.

Safety assessments

All licence holders are assessed regularly – normally once a year – to ensure they are complying with their safety cases and safety systems. Non-licensed rail participants may also be assessed if we need assurance that their activities are safe.

Safety assessors, approved by us, conduct the safety assessments and prepare a report on their findings. We usually pass on the assessment costs to the licensees.

There are three types of rail safety assessment:

  • Ordinary safety assessment: this reviews and samples the licensee's compliance with its safety case and safety system, the Railways Act 2005 and other applicable legislation (usually once a year).

  • Closure verification assessment: this aims to confirm that any issues raised in the ordinary safety assessment have been addressed.

  • Special safety assessment: this is undertaken if we determine on reasonable grounds that a rail participant's activities could cause death or serious injury to individuals, or significant damage to property.

Assessment findings

An assessment is not an inspection, though it may include inspections of procedures. For example, the assessor won't inspect track conditions but will check to see that the track is being inspected by a suitably qualified person, at specified intervals and using processes as set out in the approved safety case.

If an assessor observes a process that does not comply with the licence holder's safety case, they must note this in their report and set out the actions the licence holder must take to comply.

If the assessor observes a process that complies but could be done better, they provide a 'recommendation' in their report as to what the licence holder could do to improve.

After receiving the safety assessment report, rail participants are required to write to us:

  • advising and providing evidence of actions they are taking/have taken to address non-compliance

  • giving reasons why recommendations have been adopted or why they haven't been adopted, and outlining alternatives they have considered or will action instead

  • stating whether they will be able to take actions within the required timeframe, or if they are unable to take actions within the required timeframe, stating the reason why.

Both safety assessment report and licence holder responses should be supplied to us in Microsoft Word format.

More about rail safety assessments

Safety assessor requirements

Safety assessors must show high professional and ethical standards and have good knowledge of:

  • the application of legislation and administrative procedures to assessments

  • principles and practices of safety cases, safety systems and audit processes

  • quality assurance and continuous improvement principles. 

Accident and incident notification

Under the Railways Act 2005 (external link) , all rail licensees are required to report any accident or incident to us as soon as practicable using the accident and incident notification form. Where incidents are serious, licensees need to call our emergency number within the response time stated in their approved safety case (04 499 1858).

We are required to notify the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (external link) of all accidents, and of any incidents that we consider the commission should investigate.

Promoting rail safety

We are responsible for promoting safety on and around New Zealand's rail transport networks. This covers aspects ranging from safe driving behaviours around level crossings to discouraging people from trespassing on and around railways. In this section we've drawn together a collection of information sources on rail safety. It's about respecting the danger and staying alert to the risks.

We also promote rail safety through our sponsorship of the Tourist & Heritage Rail Safety Award as part of the Federation of Rail Organisations of New Zealand (FRONZ) annual awards. See the FRONZ website (external link) for more information. 

Find out more about rail safety promotion

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